I recently returned from a destination that has been on my bucket list for a while: the Galapagos Islands. Whilst this was one of the most expensive trips I have ever done, it was undoubtedly one of the best. I, like most people, was drawn to the Ecuadorian archipelago because of the unique and diverse wildlife species that inhabit the islands.
I expected to learn a lot about the animals there and the trip didn’t disappoint. The thing that surprised me the most however, was just how much of what I learnt is applicable to both my life individually and humanity as a whole. In this post, I’m going to share with you the life lessons I learnt in the Galapagos Islands and just why they are so important.
We only have one planet
This is one sentiment that it is nearly impossible to escape from at the moment. With everything from concerns over plastic waste to climate change, individuals and governments everywhere are finally accepting some responsibility for the mess that the world is in. Through human actions, the planet is dying and we need to do something about it. This was really brought home to me during my trip to the Galapagos.
In comparison to many places I have seen while travelling, there is no doubt that the islands of Galapagos are more litter-free than most. However, I saw rubbish frequently during my visit. If we cannot keep even the Galapagos, with its majestic wildlife and diverse ecosystem, free of trash, then what hope do we have for the rest of the world? More needs to be done, not just on these islands but everywhere.
Another thing the Galapagos showed me was just how much damage we have done to the natural world for the sake of human convenience. When people decided to settle on the islands, they brought livestock and various domesticated animals with them. These species are driving out the endemic wildlife on the Galapagos and as such, many animals are in grave danger of extinction due to depleting numbers. We need to start considering that the world is bigger than the human race and we should preserve the beauty around us – even if this means we have to find an alternative to harvesting it.
For some top tips on reducing your plastic footprint, check out this post!
Everyone needs their Mum sometimes
One evening, during a night stroll around San Cristóbal dock, Tim and I came across a baby sea lion which was screaming to the high heavens. The infant was clearly in distress and it was unclear what was causing this. The man guarding the dock became increasingly concerned and soon began radioing to colleagues about the sea lion in distress. Knowing we were helpless in the situation but not wanting to leave the baby, we stayed nearby to keep an eye on the what was going on.
After what must have been fifteen minutes of panicked howls from the infant, a deep boom echoed in the distance. This began what would become a rapid and panicked exchange between two sea lions. After another five minutes or so, a large female flopped over the rocks the other end of the beach. The baby began to heave itself across the sand towards the female. After a clumsy yet heartfelt reunion, Mum laid down to feed her pup.
This was the most beautiful and emotional thing that I witnessed during my time on the Galapagos Islands and showed me just how powerful and important family is. The inherent need to have support from your loved ones extends far beyond us humans and touches even the most obscure of the wildlife kingdom.
You are what you eat
The Galapagos Islands are home to both Flamingos and Blue Footed Boobys, both of which flaunt a colourful yet surreal appearance. I’ve always thought their brightness makes them look like something out of a storybook! During my visit to the Galapagos, I was keen to find out what gives them their bold colours.
It turns out, both Flamingos and Blue Footed Boobys, get their colourful attributes from the food that they eat. The diet of both birds contains carotenoid pigments which turn them the bright colours they are famous for. According to ThoughtCo, Flamingos eat mostly shrimp and blue-green algae. The Flamingos that eat more algae than shrimp, will be a deeper colour due to an increased concentration of pigments in the algae.
With the Blue-Footed Boobys, carotenoids are concentrated in their feet which is why they turn blue. The more intense this colour is, the more desirable the bird is considered to potential mates.
This got me thinking about my own diet and how that could be affecting my body. Whilst sadly I don’t think I get my red hair from any carotenoids (there were certainly times at school when I would’ve been willing to change my hair colour in any way possible), these birds are a good reminder that the things we consume can impact not just our own wellbeing but also how we appear to the outside world. Maybe a small reminder that every now and then, it is worth choosing the salad over the burger.
The best experiences can still be scary
The highlight of my Galapagos trip was swimming with a playful sea lion on a secluded beach. This was something I had been dying to do since stepping foot on San Cristóbal but I didn’t want to break any of the rules regarding proximity to wildlife. On the islands, there is a two-metre no-go zone around the creatures, for both your safety and to preserve their quality of life. Being an animal lover, I didn’t want to do anything that might threaten or stress the animals.
After our snorkelling trip at Kicker Rock, we were taken to one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen, which is only accessible by boat. I noticed there was a few sea lions laying on the beach and one swimming in the sea. Desperate to cool off in the clear water, I waded in a few metres away from the sea lion with my snorkel. After only a few minutes of snorkelling, the sea lion bolted towards me underwater, curious to see whether I would be a new playmate. I’m not going to lie, this was bloody terrifying!
Sea lions may move in a cumbersome fashion on land but they are quick and elegant under the water, not to mention, very big. Clearly, no-one had told this guy about the two-metre rule as he was just inches from my face. He proceeded to swim playfully with me for around fifteen minutes, every now and then making me jump from another surprise arrival. This is without doubt one of my favourite ever travel moments but there is no denying that for parts of it, I still wanted to cack my pants.
We all need to adapt to change
‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’
As this is an article about the Galapagos Islands, it seems fitting to end with a lesson taught by none other than Darwin himself. Our world is changing a lot right now. Not only is the physical landscape altering but the political climate has shifted and the way we live our lives is inherently different to ever before. Some of this change is good, some of it is bad. Regardless of your opinions on any of it, one thing is certain. The only thing that will ensure our survival in the long term is adapting to these changes and this is action we should be implementing sooner rather than later.
Have you visited these islands? What life lessons did you learn in the Galapagos?
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If you are planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands to learn some life lessons of your own, check out this useful resource for everything you need to know before you visit!